Whether you live in a new or old home, you may find unsightly cracks on the interior walls of your house. You might just want to patch them up and paint over them to get the job done, but you must find the cause of why these cracks appeared in the first place.
Different cracks can mean different things. Depending on what caused them, you may have to call a repairer to fix the source of the problem before actually repairing the wall cracks. Some cracks are only minor wall damage that you can easily repair, but others are serious signs of home damage that can endanger you and your family’s lives. Here are some of the most common causes of these cracks.
The dangerous kinds of wall cracks are the ones caused by serious structural problems in your home. An unstable home foundation can make parts of your home move slightly, creating cracks on your walls. The soil that your house is built on can expand and contract because of the temperature and the climate, causing your home’s foundation to become unstable. This instability manifests as cracks that vary due to how the soil affects your home. Other signs that your foundation is shifting are misaligning doors and windows, the floor sloping, and /or porches and chimneys separating from the main structure.
Start by examining the cracks carefully and determining how they run on your walls. Cracks that are jagged and are more than a quarter-inch wide usually indicate foundation problems. If you find that the cracks run diagonally and start narrow from the bottom and then widen as they go up, it may be that the corner footing at the foundation of your home is sinking.
If the cracks are in your basement and they run horizontally, it can mean that the soil behind the walls is expanding and is pushing unevenly on your home. This also compromises the stability of the foundation, posing a threat to your safety. These kinds of cracks require a professional builder or engineer to find the exact causes and address the problems properly without causing more damage to your home.
Water from poorly sealed openings like window panes and doors can seep inside your home and damage your walls. Leaky water pipes behind the walls and above the ceiling can also cause these cracks that often feel wet to the touch or appear discolored. Minor water seepage can saturate drywall and create harmless and easily repairable cracks. But larger leaks have to be addressed immediately as the cracks these create can multiply and worsen to destroy other parts of your house.
Homes that were vacant and unused for a long time can show signs of deterioration in the form of cracks. When a house is uninhabited for a while, the lack of indoor temperature control against the outside weather can stress the walls. But cracks like these are not serious. Damaged walls can be repaired right away, provided that the house will not be abandoned again for a long time to avoid unnecessary and repetitive wall cleanups.
New houses will sometimes show many small cracks on their walls. These are usually caused by walls made of green lumber that contains a lot of moisture. As the wood starts to dry out, it shrinks and contracts, leaving tiny noticeable cracks on wall surfaces. These cracks are harmless, but if you want to have them repaired, you should wait for at least a year for the green lumber to completely dry out. Having these cracks fixed while the wood still contains moisture can be a futile effort on your part.
Harmless fine cracks can appear on parts of your wall where the drywall panels are taped down. These paper tapes that hide the panel seams can start to peel from the walls when there is insufficient drywall mud applied underneath upon installation. You can try to apply a small amount of glue to minor tape lifting before repairing the cracks. But if you find that most of these tapes lift and crack your walls, the problem will persist even if you glue them all down. Consider re-taping by removing the old ones and properly applying drywall mud before adding new tape.
Remember to always check for home damage such as cracks in your walls. Wall cracks are symptomatic of more serious problems in your home that can threaten your family’s safety. Some cracks are totally harmless, but if you don’t know exactly what caused them, it is best to have them all checked by an expert to avoid bigger problems in the future.